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Monday, 20 April 2015

Game of Thrones S5E2: The House of Black and White.

Game of Thrones
Series 5, Episode 2
The House of Black and White.

Apparently, the series' first four episodes were leaked online last week. I'm rather glad that nobody told me that, and I think I'm going to continue pretending that I have no idea that's the case, because much as I like marathoning TV series - well, I can hardly do these reviews weeks before the episodes actually air, can I, not to mention that it would mean a good month's wait for the new episodes.

It says a lot, though, about Game of Thrones' success that the leak has gotten so little coverage. HBO doesn't seem to think of it as a big deal, the creators seem to have barely clocked that it even happened. In general, Benioff and Weiss have been very relaxed about piracy of their show, because ultimately piracy has only increased its popularity, dispersing their show to a wider audience of people who have then responded by watching it legally, and by calling for episodes to be aired in a wider range of timeslots, thus accruing more money for HBO: In the UK, for example, Game of Thrones is aired twice - once in the small hours of the morning, simultaneous with it being aired in the US, and again the next evening for people who can't be staying up that early.

It puts the lie to the idea that piracy is the death of television, rather than potentially a very useful marketing tool.

Anyway, here's the bingo from last week:

In this week's episode, Arya arrives at Braavos and the House of Black and White. Meanwhile, Jon faces elections for the next Lord-Commander of the Night's Watch, and an offer from Stannis Baratheon to make him Lord of Winterfell. In King's Landing, Cersei receives a threat from the Martells, who are growing discontented with their prince, Doran, over his lack of response to Oberyn's death. In the Eyrie, Brienne and Podrick encounter Littlefinger and Sansa in a tavern. Meanwhile, Daenerys must decide whether to give a dissident and former slaveholder a fair trial.

I really liked this episode.

Also, Daenerys' dresses are still really nice.

I railed at last week's episode for its pointless scenes in which Brienne and Sansa just barely manage to avoid meeting each other, but it pays off in this week's episode, which sees Brienne learning that Sansa is with Littlefinger. I did fear as soon as the scene started that it would be another 'they're in the same place but don't see each other' malarkey, pushing that entire storyline from 'what an irritating coincidence' to 'what a comical mishap' territory, but they didn't, and I'm grateful for that. I still wonder, though, where on earth Brienne's storyline is really meant to go from here.

The most pointless storyline this episode was actually the King's Landing one, I think. It felt flat and lifeless, and the 'Dorne is threatening Myrcella' plotline feels thin when we know that the Martells have a code of honour that would forbid them from harming her - and we're shown that in a brief scene of Dorne, where Doran (played by the always wonderful Alexander Siddig) says as much. In an amusing note, Myrcella appears to share Tommen's time-warping powers, as she's gone from being a toddler to being in her teens in a matter of months. But even that plotline has movement, seeing Cersei's power diminish somewhat and establishing that Jaime and Bronn are going to Dorne.


I do wish that Jon had taken Stannis' offer, and I hold that it would have been a far more interesting route for the plot to take, but I knew he wouldn't, and my desire for him to do so is largely because I don't find the Night's Watch that interesting. In a story primarily about political machinations, the entirely apolitical Night's Watch feels divorced from the rest of the plot in a way that I don't really enjoy. I was surprised that Stannis didn't try to punish him for shooting Mance - indeed, it seems that Jon will face no consequences for that at all - but after thinking more about it, it does make sense for Stannis' character.

Daenerys is another one who feels divorced from the rest of the plot, and while her storyline teeters at the edge of being a plotline holding pattern, I think it's important development for her and Meereen, establishing that her problems do not just stem from an armed dissident movement, but also from dissatisfaction amongst her people and a brewing class war. There is a lot of potential there: Daenerys, after all, is not well-liked by the former masters, and her actions in this episode have done nothing to gain favour amongst the former slaves, who were prior to this her most staunch supporters. 

The scene with Drogon towards the end makes me think that Daenerys might eventually decide to just get away from it all, climbing on Drogon and flying away - and while that would be an interesting path for her story to go down, I think it would cheapen things a little if she didn't eventually have an epiphany and return, since Daenerys' storyline has always been about becoming a queen. But that's pure speculation.

Lastly, Arya's storyline. Not much happened with it, but what did happen - her gaining entrance to the House of Black and White - is massively important, and Arya's induction into the shapeshifters that seem to live there can only be bad for both her enemies and her. 

Also, nice architecture.

All in all, a very strong second episode, and a marked improvement on what was already a pretty good series opener. Going forward, the criteria for what makes an episode good are going to get harsher, obviously, and starting next episode or the episode after I'm going to be hoping to see Large Important Events taking place, but for the moment, I'm happy.

Anyway, here's the updated bingo:


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